By Jason Smith
Dear Drugs, It’s our anniversary. Remember 12–12–12? That was the date, exactly two years ago, when I went 24 hours without you in my body for the first time in a long time. Remember why we chose 12–12–12? Because 12–11–12 was a really, really shitty day.
From 1997 to 2012, we went hard in the paint, man. Hard. Sometimes I look at my life and think, “Damn, imagine what I could have accomplished had we NOT spent a large majority of that time high!” There’s the tragic consequences that come with your friendship. That time we overdosed on OxyContin and Xanax in Nice, France, and slept in train stations for two weeks because during our blackout we lost my luggage, passport, phone, and wallet. The time we woke up in Shanghai three days late for work and showed up with blue hair, a black eye, and a fractured ankle, with no idea why. That time maintaining a Fentanyl supply got us into trouble with the Russian mafia in the Czech Republic, the family and friends we pushed out of my life because they could no longer watch me deteriorate, the many unpaid hospital bills from the many overdoses resulting in many bill collecting agencies blowing my phone up to this day. Those were the downsides. But then there’s the part of me that interrupts, realizing I more than likely would have never taken the chances I took had I not had your chemical influence running through my veins.
That’s the tragic truth. That time I decided to move to Italy: all us. The time I decided to move to Prague, with $120 dollars in my wallet and Sassy, my half-lab, half-Aussie shepherd mix, in-tow: you were there. Taking that job with Disney in Shanghai: we did that. Running with the bulls in Spain: one of my favorite memories together. Sleeping on the beaches of Greece for five weeks, Oktoberfest, Millennium New Year in Edinburgh—all happened thanks to a bit of your pharmaceutical persuasion. Each one, an incredible, life-changing experience that more than likely never would have happened had I not had you to nudge me along. There were, in fact, some good times.
Truth is, I am who I am thanks to you.
The person sitting right here, right now, is the sum of my past actions and you’ve played a big part. To be honest, I don’t regret our time together. It was hot, passionate, seductive, self-destructive, unhealthy, suicidal, but all of it has led me to this moment. I am right where I’m supposed to be. I have plenty of remorse. But I don’t regret you. Being in recovery from you has granted me access to my inner-most self, a place to which few people ever venture, and a place I certainly would have never discovered had it not been a requisite for survival. I’ve learned to take accountability for my actions, suffer the consequences, mend the broken relationships, and move forward. Every day, before bed, I look at my day and really reflect upon my actions. Where was I selfish, where was I dishonest, where did I hurt somebody. And I do my best to make it right. Without having to recover from you, I’d more than likely be some asshole more concerned with making as much money as humanly possible, despite the suffering it may cause myself or others, while life passed me by in my quest for as many things as possible.
Recovering from you has taught me to pray. Every morning. I’m not even sure to whom or what I’m praying, but I do it regardless. You wanna know why? Because when I was three days clean, all I could do was think about being with you. I’d wake up from a dream about getting high into a reality of wishing for nothing more than to see that dream come to fruition. I had an obsession and it was eating me alive, you consuming my every thought. I would wake up in the morning and not know what to do with myself — remember, this was traditionally our time together?
Removing you from my day threw everything into chaos. It was fucked up, fighting that compulsion to get high with you on a second-by-second basis, every fiber of my being screaming for some sort of chemical, anything to keep me from feeling. So one morning, fetal-positioned up, crying, screaming, because I didn’t see how in the hell I was supposed to stay clean when all I could do was think about getting high, I prayed. I prayed that someone, something, anything, please make it stop. Please, just let me think about something else. Anything else. Anything but getting high. Anything but you. And guess what: it worked. True story. I don’t know how, or why, or who, or what. I just know that whatever removed that obsession from my twisted brain, that escorted you away from my conscious thinking that morning — I pray to that. Whatever that entity is, it put a little voice inside of me that took your place. No offense, but you’ve been replaced. This new voice, it won’t leave me the fuck alone even when I really wish it would, which is exactly what I need.
It was this voice that kept on me, wouldn’t leave me alone, when I saw a heroin epidemic in my small, northern California town, and wondered why nobody in the “normal community,” i.e. police, city council, media, was talking about it. It was this voice that told me to just pitch the idea to the newspaper — with no writing experience, no journalism background, no relationship to anyone at the paper — which I did, just to get the voice to shut up. It was this voice that said, “I told you so” when the editor of the paper not only let me write a story, but gave me three front-pages for a three-part series. That series, Heroin in the Foothills, changed my life. It got me writing, something I’d never done. That writing led to more writing, which led to more publications, and even to a contract for a memoir for the above-mentioned international exploits (no, I’m not splitting the profits with you). All of this happened because I was in touch with something inside of me that I would have never developed had I never met you.
If you get a chance, check out the original article and read the comments below the article, the space usually reserved for trolls and assholes — that story made an impact in this small town, exposing your promiscuity (you little slut, you). You were never my problem. I never had a “drug problem.” Shit, you worked as advertised, doing exactly what you were supposed to. If you were the problem, I should have been able to remove you from the picture and everything would have been all good. I could have just picked up and moved on like nothing happened. That is not, nor was it ever, the case. I had a Jason problem. You helped me realize this.
I had a lot of things inside of me that I never knew how to deal with, and you numbed those things until I was ready to deal with them. Getting over you forced me to heal from wounds suffered long before your arrival. In a way, you were there for me when I needed you most, and for this, I’ll be forever grateful. It was I who abused the you. You never abused me. I don’t know what I would have done had you never entered the picture and carpet-bombed my emotions, but I do know that before you, I was carrying a razor blade around in my wallet, tucked where nobody could see, you know, just in case… It was not your fault. It was my fault. It wasn’t you… it was me.
My fault means my problem, and my problem means I can deal with it. For so long I blamed others. It was their fault. I was just an innocent little victim, forced into using drugs to cope. Getting over you taught me to man up and deal with my shit, because as long as it’s someone else’s fault, I’m stuck under their control, giving them total power over me. But if it’s my fault, once I get past the hurt of that realization, I can absorb it, process it, and deal with it. I can move on.
I’ve developed a true sense of self, leading me on an introspective journey that has been the most difficult, brutal, enlightening, beautiful thing I ever could have hoped to encounter.
So here’s to you, drugs. Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to find me. Thank you for connecting me to whatever the hell it is that I pray to every morning, that removed that obsession from my mind that morning on the cold, tile floor in Modesto, California. Thank you for for inspiring me to become a better human being, a better friend, a better husband, a better father. Thank you for leading me to this writing thing. XOXO Jason